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Until The End of The World
I saw U2 at Sphere on October 7, 2023.
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“Haven't seen you in quite a while
I was down the hold just passing time
Last time we met it was a low-lit room
We were as close together as a bride and groom
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time
You were talking about the end of the world”
U2 at Sphere. Atomic City. A generous invite from my friend Brian who lives in Scotland, thanks to his sister Shirley grabbing four tickets the day they went on sale. Brian’s wife Vicky would make the trip as well—the three Scots plus me for the fourth concert in the early history of this impossible venue, the fourth show in the Las Vegas residency of my all-time favorite band.
It would turn out to be one of the coolest nights of my life, officially a concert but perhaps better described as something close to Heaven. If I get to Heaven and it’s just U2 playing Sphere, I will be completely fine. Few things in life come with enormous expectation and somehow turn out to be everything we hope for. The city of Paris is how you hope it would be. If you’re a surfer, the Superbank on Australia’s Gold Coast is how you hope it would be. The images from opening night at Sphere the weekend before our trip, they gave me chills. It was hard to imagine how it would feel actually being there, looking up and all around. Seeing U2 perform at this game-changing venue lived up to all the hype. It was how you hope it would be.
I wanted to show you my photographs and videos. I wanted to share the things I saw. I wanted to tell you that Eddie Vedder was there, and George Clooney and Brad Pitt and Lady Gaga and Adam Levine and Tom Brady and the guy who runs UFC. I don’t like UFC because I don’t like to see people getting hurt. Eddie was the only one who got a shout-out from Bono. “Sing softly. Eddie Vedder is in the house tonight.”
My hands kept going up toward the dome and toward the sky, fingers spread wide the way I used to do in church in times of worship. I wasn’t worshipping U2 but I’m also not sure what was happening. Maybe I was saying the night felt bigger than me. Maybe I was saying the song felt true. Maybe I was saying it felt good to feel alive.
We walked out like zombies into the Vegas night, not a sip of alcohol between us but drunk on the best thing we’d ever seen. We were among the thousands walking home, whatever home meant for each person this extraordinary evening. The Wynn was to our right and I thought of David Kuo, my friend who died but also lived. David and I stayed there close to 10 years ago, a spontaneous trip that was his idea and has me smiling as I type. He knew a manager at the Wynn and we ended up in a suite and I did not spend one dollar. Actually David gave me dollars to gamble and I somehow won $1200 playing roulette, the only time that’s ever happened. I promised to use the money to buy a guitar, a promise I finally kept two years ago during a season of heartache and grief. The mahogany Martin sits in my living room, rarely played but very much a prized possession, because it reminds me of my friend. David loved U2. He loved “Where The Streets Have No Name.” He would have loved this night.
Sphere is at one end of the Strip, next to the Venetian. I kept making jokes about Treasure Island across the street. Two weeks later I’m realizing that maybe Treasure Island reminded me of Florida. Kissimmee vibes. We were staying at the other end of the Strip, at Luxor, the big strange pyramid one. We walked past the Bellagio. Shirley joked that with Brad Pitt and George Clooney both in town, the place was no doubt getting robbed again.
We stopped to eat at Giordano’s. Deep-dish pizza that my buddy Jarrett introduced me to in Chicago. He likes to tease me because one time we met for dinner downtown and out of all the awesome restaurants we could have gone to, I pushed for PF Chang’s. I hoped that Jarrett would be proud of this Sin City decision, deep-dish to close out a beautiful day.
At one point finishing the meal, I asked about the time, guessing we were getting close to midnight. It was two-thirty in the morning. We walked the rest of the way home. Tropicana is across from Luxor and the place looks very scary, like perhaps it is abandoned, or perhaps it should now be abandoned. The internet revealed that there are plans to blow it up. Another Oakland team is on the move and so a new baseball stadium is coming. You don’t renovate a place destined to explode.
“I took the money, I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You led me on with those innocent eyes
You know I love the element of surprise
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You, you were acting like it was the end of the world”
Back at Luxor, I stayed up until 6:30 in the morning, in bed with all my pictures from the night. At some point hours later I learned that the world had changed. 1,400 people were killed in Israel, victims of a horrific surprise attack carried out by Hamas fighters. Another 200 were taken hostage.
I saw U2 at Sphere on October 7, 2023. One of the best days of my life was one of the worst days of our lifetime.
In the two weeks since, as Israel has responded, another 5,000 people have been killed in Gaza. According to the United Nations, more than half are women and children. Over 15,000 people have been injured. 1,400,000 are internally displaced, with more homes and buildings being destroyed every day. The need for food, water, medicine, fuel, and electricity—is beyond dire.
I have much to learn about the situation, about the land and history and who holds power, but in this time of crisis, my heart goes first to the innocent people, to those crying out for safety and shelter, for basic needs and freedom. Every border is invented. People are the sacred thing, regardless of their origin, regardless of the cards that they’ve been handed. I don’t know the path forward but I know I want innocent people not to die, not to suffer, not to starve and not to burn.
Human beings are capable of so many different things. Creation and destruction, beauty and terror, war and peace, excess and poverty, neon and a darkness blacker than the color. We built the Sphere and Iron Dome. We made the need for both. I don’t know how to make it all make sense.
I put my hands up toward the sky again, fingers spread wide the way I used to do in church. Maybe I’m confessing that all of this is bigger than me, that I do not understand. Maybe I’m asking for a song or plan or prayer or something true.
I put my hands up toward the sky again, to catch the bullets, stop the bombs.
“Love, love, love, love love love
Love, love, love, love love love
Love, love, love, love love love
In my dream, I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows they'd learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You, you said you'd wait till the end of the world”
—Lyrics from “Until The End of The World” by U2
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Reminder that the Founding Member Zoom is tomorrow (10/24) at 8pm ET. Feel free to upgrade your subscription if you would like to join us.
Upcoming small-group conversations:
Thursday, 10/26 - “What I Believe About God and What God Believes About Me”
Saturday, 10/28 - “Reunion! (Open to all past participants)
Tuesday, 11/7 - “I’m in a Season of Change”
Friday, 11/17 - “Magical Mystery Talk”
Calling all communicators: Join me 11/3 & 11/4 for “All You Need Is Water,” my first-ever workshop dedicated to public speaking. Open to all levels of experience, even those who are simply curious.